Paralegal and Former Juvenile Lifer Edward Sanders Discusses the Need for Education for Incarcerated Individuals

The Michigan Daily reports on "From Prison to Paralegal" presentation
Paralegal Edward Sanders - a former juvenile lifer who spent nearly 43 years in prison - discussed the importance of education, digital technology access, and literacy skills for incarcerated individuals and spoke about the process of returning to the community in the digital age at a lecture titled “From Prison to Paralegal” presented by the University of Michigan School of Information and the University’s Information Alliance for Community Development reports the Michigan Daily.

Summary of the Michigan Daily Article:

Mr. Sanders was 17 years old when he was convicted as an accessory to murder and sentenced to life without parole in 1975. He was sentenced to a term of years and released in July 2017 after more than 42 years in prison.

Mr. Sanders entered prison with a third-grade education level, but he was motivated to learn.  Getting an education in prison proved difficult, however. Because of his life sentence, he was not prioritized for educational opportunities; he could only get into a class if an inmate with higher priority chose not to pursue an education. Additionally, Mr. Sanders said, access to technology is severely limited for incarcerated individuals. But he persisted, ultimately earning an associate’s degree in paralegal studies from Jackson College and bachelor’s degree in behavioral science from Spring Arbor University.

“There is an institutional bias that’s built into corrections,” Mr. Sanders said. “Even though it’s called corrections, there is a bias to keep you illiterate, to keep you at a remedial level, and it takes a village to get former inmates back into society.”

After his release, Mr. Sanders was helped with reentry to the community by University of Michigan and Wayne State University social work interns, and by his sisters. The U of M’s Information Alliance for Community Development helped Mr. Sanders gain fluency in digital technology, which he said was essential for finding work.

Mr. Sanders was hired by McDonald’s. It is unlikely that he will find work as a paralegal due to his felony conviction. Nonetheless, his ultimate goal is to contribute to the field of social work or law.

Read the entire Michigan Daily article here.